A judge on Tuesday postponed the trial of a Casper man who is accused of providing guns to teenagers and then driving a car by a Paradise Valley house while the children shot it. Nobody was home at the time of the shooting.
Matthew Nietert, 25, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to the four felonies he faces. He is the only of the five co-defendants whose case is still to be publicly adjudicated.
Prosecutors charged one teenager in juvenile court, where cases are sealed. Two more juveniles were initially charged as adults before judges moved the cases to the closed court. And a 17-year-old co-defendant pleaded guilty in July to a single count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.
Lawyers said at the time that they will ask he be recommended to a corrections boot camp for young men.
Nietert’s case had been scheduled to go to trial Monday.
It slowed at an early Tuesday afternoon Natrona County District Court hearing, however, when Judge Daniel Forgey indefinitely postponed the trial while lawyers await an evaluation of Nietert’s mental state. Although the judge on Aug. 1 requested an evaluation — which, depending on its contents, jurors could use to support a finding of not guilty by reason of mental illness — it had not arrived two months later.
Bret McCoy, a state hospital representative, told the judge a doctor had interviewed Nietert in September. An evaluation report, McCoy said, would be ready in weeks — after the set trial date. It soon became clear that the doctor, however, had conducted the wrong type of evaluation.
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As the defendant sat alone in orange jail scrubs and shoes, Forgey, with a voice strained by exasperation, told McCoy and Nietert’s lawyer by phone — in an apparent reference to a murder trial recently postponed for lack of a psychological evaluation — that the hospital had recently bungled multiple of his orders. The request for Nietert’s evaluation should have been apparent, Forgey said.
“I think I went out of my way to make clear it was pursuant to (law governing mental illness pleas),” the judge said.
The Aug. 1 order cites the relevant law and not the law that hospital staff had followed in conducting the evaluation. Nietert also faces a drug case in Natrona County Circuit Court.
McCoy indicated at the hearing that hospital staff had worked to fulfill an order from that case and not the shooting case.
Although McCoy said a doctor could complete a new interview over the weekend, Nietert’s court-appointed lawyer, Eric Palen, asked the judge to continue the trial. Palen said he would not have enough time to review the state hospital’s findings before going before a jury.
Ava Bell, who is prosecuting the case, did not oppose Palen’s request. A new trial date has not yet been set.